There is no clarity but plenty of qualified candidates to succeed Johnson

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It might be easier — and quicker — to list who is not considering a run to succeed Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader and thus the 56th and next prime minister of Great Britain.

A slew a candidates emerged, including favorites as well as dark horses. This was just hours after scandal-plagued Johnson announced that he would be resigning his position of prime minister. British political observers said that so many candidates are ready to put their name in the ring, suggesting the race is open. There’s no clear favourite and Mr. Johnson will likely not be the dominant personality.

The early favourites of handicappers and oddsmakers are some names that may not be familiar to people who don’t closely follow British politics, such as Penny Mordaunt and Suella Braverman.

Rishi Sunak, who was Treasury chief from 2020 until his resignation this week helped convince Mr. Johnson it was time to step down, has an international profile and a reputation as a rising star in Conservative Party circles, but his candidacy has been hurt by his role in the infamous “Partygate” scandal flouting COVID-19 lockdown rules and by more recent revelations that his wealthy wife may have skirted tax regulations.

The process could surprise you: Two finalists are chosen by Conservative MPs, who then have to cast secret ballot votes in a series of caucus meetings.

The roughly 200,000 Conservative Party members across the country then vote by mail for the next party leader and prime minister.


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Defense Minister Ben Wallace was touted as a “front-runner” Thursday based on the results of YouGov snap poll that placed him first over 12 rivals in a survey of just over 700 Conservative Party members, but only because he received 13% of the vote to 12% for Ms. Mordaunt, the international trade minister, and Mr. Sunak at 10%. The YouGuv poll did indicate that Mr. Wallace, a 52-year-old Army veteran who has garnered attention for Britain’s energetic military support of Ukraine in its war with Russia, also fares well in head-to-head match-ups against his rivals should he survive to the final selection by party members.

Johnson’s poll numbers have dropped in recent months and his endorsement is unlikely to help. While Johnson spoke Thursday about leading a “caretaker administration” that would last several months while the succession battle unfolded, many believe the party will try to find a leader much sooner.

Mr. Johnson won a huge victory for Conservatives in 2019. His slogan was “Get Brexit Done.” However, Britain’s relationship to the EU and its place in the global community could come up again during the next leadership contest.

Former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt lost in the race for successor to Theresa May in 2019. He initially opposed Britain’s departure from the European Union and was defeated by Mr. Johnson.

Ms. Truss also has a reputation for international service, first being Mr. Johnson’s trade secretary and later as the foreign secretary from September 2021.. As trade secretary, she has made full use of Britain’s freedom after the EU exit, helping to push for bilateral free-trade agreements with Australia, Japan and New Zealand.

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She cut short a trip to the G-20 summit in Indonesia this week as the political drama was unfolding at home, telling reporters Thursday, “We need calmness and unity now and to keep governing while a new leader is found.”

Mr. Tugendhat was among the leaders of this week’s race. He is a constant critic of Mr. Johnson and has been a strong advocate of his leadership. Ms. Braverman (Britain’s attorney general since 2020) announced that she would run the day after Mr. Johnson declared that he was retiring.

The daughter of Indian immigrants, Ms. Braverman, 42, is one of a number of top candidates in the race, including Mr. Zahawi, the current Treasury chief, Mr. Sunak and former Health Secretary Sajid Javid with ethnic backgrounds who are considered serious contenders.

The fact that there are at least a dozen potential candidates who opposed Brexit highlights the real ideological divides in the Conservative majority.

Many Tories strongly objected to Mr. Johnson’s excessive spending and what they saw to be a betrayal to Brexit’s promise of free markets in Britain and reducing the influence of the state on voters’ lives.

The Conservatives’ large majority in Parliament may make it more difficult for party members to choose the right candidate.

Despite the fact that the Labour Party is leading in polls, and pressing for a confidence vote in government, 2024, still has a mandate. This gives Mr. Johnson’s successor the opportunity to make a policy change and continue enjoying the benefits of being in office for longer than two years.

Conservative strategists believe that by the time prime minister faces the voters again, the nation’s economic woes, and COVID scandals, will be over.

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If Mr. Johnson’s successor has early success, the prime minister may also call for a snap election in order to obtain a mandate to lead.

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